A Permeable Stage?
Boris Charmatz and Mette Ingvartsen talk about their plans for the future Volksbühne
As members of the artistic direction and the ensemble, respectively, the dancer-choreographers Boris Charmatz and Mette Ingvartsen will be shaping the profile of the new Volksbühne. What are their plans, especially with regard to the Berlin dance scene (members of which have repeatedly stated their wish to be considered a part of the upcoming transition)? In an email interview shortly after the Volksbühne press conference in May, Boris Charmatz and Mette Ingvartsen addressed some of the questions that then were still open.
What are your plans for the next five years regarding building an infrastructure for dance at Volksbühne Berlin?
Boris Charmatz: This is a big question! I do not think that Chris Dercon was appointed to "build an infrastructure for dance" in Berlin. And neither was I! But I do understand the criticism about the "loss" of the former model of theater, or the lack of a "dance house" in Berlin, or the lack of support for the dance companies in Berlin, though. The new Volksbühne with program director Marietta Piekenbrock will include more dance in its DNA, as the first months will show, but it will not solve all the questions that the dancers are facing in Berlin. I do think that dance is a central medium to rethink the public space, and therefore has the potential to co-construct the set of questions such a theater can tackle in the future. I would like dance to be a tool for expanding the possibilities, via choreographic assemblies, of what a "Volksbühne" could be in 2017. Still, the project for the Volksbühne is an open rethinking of the different art forms, and dance will not have any border within this realm.
Do you and/or the artistic directors Chris Dercon and Marietta Piekenbrock have plans to develop a fixed ensemble or will you continue to work with guest artists?
Mette Ingvartsen: Chris Dercon and Marietta Piekenbrock are planning to build a multidisciplinary ensemble over the next few years. Personally, as a dancer who will often perform on the Volksbühne stage, I will also be part of that ensemble along with other artists who will frequently appear in productions that will become part of the repertoire. It will be an ensemble consisting of actors, filmmakers, performers and dancers. However, in my future performances I will also be working with performers who are not in the ensemble because my work has always been grounded in concepts and ideas that make it necessary to engage with specific performers/dancers for each project due to their specific skills, ages or personalities.
Boris Charmatz: I do work extensively with dancers, and some of them have been working with me for 25 years. But the question of a permanent ensemble is tricky at the Volksbühne, since many of the actors considered to be part of the Volksbühne ensemble were technically not part of it. A lot of the dancers I work with wouldn’t like to be permanent employees, since they are often choreographers as well, and partly also very successful. I myself am a dancer for other choreographers (recently with Tino Sehgal or Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker for example), and I would like that the future ensemble will represent the artistic freedom and the multiplicity of postures that the new program implies.
To what extent do you plan to cooperate with the Berlin dance scene, for example hiring dancers, inviting choreographers, facilitating guest performances or even working in coproductions?
Boris Charmatz: With respect to myself I can say that we will open with the project "Fous de danse”. This project is an invitation to the whole city to dance and form a permeable, ephemeral, and choreographic assembly. HZT students, young people from P14 and Staatliche Ballettschule Berlin, the BEM – Folk Dance Ensemble or the Konservatorium für türkische Musik – all will be part of the program. We are also preparing a "solo forest” with dancers/choreographers from Berlin, including for example Frank Willens or Johanna-Elisa Lemke. The Dance On company with Brit Rodemund, Jone San Martin and Christopher Roman will perform, and Raphael Hillebrand will be associated with Urban Dance circles. I am interested in facilitating the permeability between the local context and international projects.
Mette Ingvartsen: My projects this year are not directly connected to other choreographers or dance institutions than the Volksbühne in Berlin. However, within "The Permeable Stage”, I am inviting filmmakers and theorists to present their work and research in order to connect dance in Berlin to social, theoretical and political questions. Some of the invited guests are based in Berlin.
Why hasn’t there been an exchange or a communication between you and the Berlin dance scene regarding the Volksbühne up to now? We’ve learned some parties’ requests have gone unanswered.
Boris Charmatz: We had many requests regarding collaborations for the Volksbühne, which is great. We are interested in exchange and communication and we’ve been in contact with many artists as you can see, for example, in "Fous de danse".
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